(Reuters Health) – Almost all people who overdose on prescription opioids continue to receive prescriptions for these painkillers, according to a new study.
“We found the results both surprising and concerning,” said lead author Dr. Marc R. Larochelle of Boston Medical Center.
“While this study wasn't designed to answer why, one possibility is that providers are not aware that their patients experienced an overdose when making the decision to continue prescribing opioids,” Larochelle told Reuters Health by email. “This lack of knowledge may be a symptom of our fragmented health care system where there is no clear mechanism to communicate events from emergency department or inpatient settings to providers in the community.”
The researchers used Optum, a national commercial insurance claims database, to identify almost 3,000 patients who experienced a nonfatal overdose between 2000 and 2012 while taking long-term opioids prescribed for chronic pain not related to cancer. Opioids include drugs like codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and tramadol.
Just over 90% of these patients continued to receive prescription opioids after the overdose. More than half got the prescription from the same doctor.